Sharon Needles: The Atlanta Interview
‘I don’t eat meat, but I do cocaine,’ Sharon Needles tells me. ‘We’re not all perfect.’
The RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Season 4 winner has never been one shy away from controversy. That’s why animal rights group PETA chose Needles for its Halloween ad campaign launching October 23rd. ‘Eating shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg,’ the ad says. ‘If gnawing on flesh turns your stomach, why not go veg?’
‘I don’t agree with everything PETA says…’
Needles is, in fact, a vegetarian. But she doesn’t want to preach. ‘When I did the ad, I told PETA I wasn’t going to tell people to go vegan or not wear fur. I don’t agree with everything PETA says. But I’m not the kind of person who’s going to distance myself because I don’t agree 100%. Success comes with compromise.’
PETA’s openly-gay Vice President Dan Matthews tells us, ‘We’re thrilled to have Sharon Needles represent PETA this Halloween, and hope that her quirky sense of humor may change a few minds about the sanity, or shall I say, insanity, of eating meat.’
I ask Needles if she was paid to do the ad. ‘I did not get paid. I did it for free – and on a day I was really busy! The pay I’m getting for this is my younger fans who hang on every word I say. I like to bring things I’m passionate about to their attention.’
Needles was the target of a protest this year at for using the N word in one of her earlier acts. PETA often stages protests, including one recently at the Georgia Aquarium Pride Party. I ask if she thinks protests are necessary to create change.
‘Historically, of course. They were very important in the fight for African American and gay rights and the fight against AIDS to create awareness. But I’m not sure they’re as effective anymore. We have access to so much information nowadays. We’re all much more aware. But I also know there are people who feel a strong calling to have their voice be heard.’
‘They actually made me cry…’
Did the protest at Needle’s Jungle show upset her? ‘I would love to say it didn’t, but it did. That was at the end of a consistent five month touring schedule. I had been performing in different countries and time zones. I had had no sleep. They actually made me cry. But I want to create a dialogue with anyone who misunderstands my work, so I donated my personal time for dialogue and discussion.’
Was she surprised by the protest? ‘I don’t know why, but I was. I’ve known about these racial equality activists in Atlanta where it doesn’t really matter what you say, you’re on the losing end. I should have just stayed home and taken a nap.’
Needles returns to Jungle on November 9th to judge the Miss Originality Pageant 2012, founded by David Magazine and sponsored by Brushstrokes. All money raised will be evenly split between PALS (Pets Are Loving Support) and Lost-n-Found Youth. After winning RuPaul’s Drag Race, what kind of judge will she be? ‘I’m kind of the Paula Abdul of pageant judging. I always have an open mind and I’m glad that they asked me to come judge.’
Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie come to Atlanta on Thursday for their ‘Twins of Evil’ tour. Were they some of Needles’ earlier influences? ‘Marilyn Manson was my Michael Jackson,’ she says. ‘For me, he was that idol when you’re a kid and you have all their posters and own all their albums and go to all of their shows. And you have this fantasy in your head that one day you can maybe be them.’
‘Marilyn Manson was my Michael Jackson…’
Does Manson still influence her? ‘As an adult he doesn’t influence me that much. I have tastes that are a little more underground and less Hollywood. When I was a kid it was and N’SYNC and all these other pop groups that were being turned out by a bullshit factory to make money. Then there was this Marilyn Manson person – and I loved that. He said rebel against your teachers and parents and worship Satan. I can’t believe more gay youth weren’t attracted to him instead of Britney Spears.’
Who were some of Needles’ other influences? ‘Elvira, horror films, Peg Bundy and bimbo culture, the 80′s, the high fashion of Alexander McQueen. I’m constantly submerged in documentaries and nightly news and pop culture. I wish Mitt Romney had a more distinguished look so I could dress like him.’
Needles says she has three costume options lined up for Halloween – the irony is not lost on her since she dresses up every night – but hasn’t chosen one yet. ‘Vincent Price because I love male characters and I never get to be one; The Bride of Frankenberry because if he had a bride I wonder what she would look like; and Latrice Royale because she’s beautiful and I love her!
I ask if Atlanta drag queens have influenced Sharon Needles. ‘I’m very inspired by the queendom of Atlanta – RuPaul, the most stunning, statuesque drag queen of all time; Lady Bunny, who is ridiculously talented; and of course, Nicole Paige Brooks!,’ she yells. ‘I would certainly say Atlanta is the mecca of drag.’
‘I’m in the Atlanta airport almost every day…’
How much competition, backstabbing, and cattiness exists among the RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants? ‘Before you’re on RuPaul’s Drag Race, it’s easy to say you don’t like someone and be bitchy. But – and I’m not just saying this – I worship every drag queen who has walked down RuPaul’s runway.’ But then it slips out – ‘Of course, there’s no competition with me, honey,’ she laughs.
I ask Needles what she likes about performing in Atlanta. ‘I’ve only performed in Atlanta once so far, so I didn’t get to see much of the city. But I LOVE the airport! People don’t realize this, but I’m actually in Atlanta almost every day. If I’m not with my boyfriend, I’m with Dan who works at the bar in Concourse B. He’s the most charming man in the world.’
- To learn more about Sharon Needles, visit her at SharonNeedles.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Get a Sharon Needles PETA magnet here.